Special Olympics Will Include Pickleball In Broward County

By Barbara Fox

July 22, 2021

Broward County is the first county in Florida to include pickleball in the variety of sports offered through Special Olympics

“We want the participants to learn, to practice, to compete and, most of all, to have fun” said Phil Farinacci, manager of sports training and competition for special Olympics in Broward County. He was talking to a group of people who, in spite of the hot, 95 degree heat, were eager to begin their volunteer jobs as teachers, coaches, and helpers for pickleball, the newest sport to be included in the 18 or so sports offered by Special Olympics.

The Special Olympics games run year-round; there is always some sport being learned or played or in competition; there is no offseason. Special Olympics was founded in the early 1960s by Eunice Shriver in Washington DC and is for people eight years old and up with intellectual disabilities. It was created, to quote the mission statement ‘to empower people with mental disabilities to become physically productive, respected members of society thru sports training and competition.”

Pickleball was almost unknown in Broward County until 2014 when an avid player, Mitchell Ball, introduced it to several parks and recreation centers; it quickly became popular and today, there are pickleball courts and tournaments throughout the state. Now, for the first time, it will be a part of Special Olympics.

Broward County is the first county in Florida to include pickleball in the variety of sports offered through Special Olympics. The coaching and playing, led by Andy Rubenstein, will be held at Plantation Park Central, 9151 NW 2nd St. in Plantation every Sunday at 3:30 beginning on July 18th. The players will find out that pickleball is played with a paddle and a whiffle ball on a small court. They will learn the rules of the game, how to serve, which part of the court is called the “kitchen” and when to stay out of it, how to return balls and how to score and they will find out, as all pickleball players do, that one of the the hardest parts of the game is bending down to pick up the balls. Whiffle balls, unlike tennis balls, don’t bounce! There will be a six-week training period for learning and practicing playing the game and then, the the exciting part, the competitions where they will test their new skills against each other in several games until one of them, with the highest score, will be declared the winner. So, it’s time to begin. The score is 0-0-start.